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Go local: Berlin

An insider’s guide to the affordable centre of European history and hedonism

In our Go Local Guides, we’ve teamed up with local insiders from popular travel destinations; giving you their money-saving tips on how to get a taste of the places they call home, without breaking the bank.

streetview of Berlin
Maya-Roisin Slater

Arts and culture journalist Maya-Roisin Slater uncovers hidden gems in five of the city’s most iconic areas.

Berlin is a cool city of laissez-faire hedonism and delightful affordability.  And it’s not just about clubbing and currywurst.

Neukölln: Hip Eateries, Historic Parks, and Rare Records

A favourite of Berlin’s young creatives, Neukölln is a rapidly developing neighborhood with enough hotspots to keep you busy for days. Four places in particular highlight the area’s undeniable charm. Neo-baroque-style classical garden Körnerpark is the ideal backdrop for a romantic stroll. With its meticulously pruned flowers and splashy water features it feels more like walking through castle grounds than a mere public park. Once you’ve had a chance to smell the roses hop on the bus (€2.80/£2.64) to OYE Records. This pint-sized shop is home to an expertly curated selection of new and used vinyl, from house and disco to jazz and electronics (from €5/£4.72). Walk the tree-lined streets to La Bolognina, an Italian joint with a small but mighty natural wine selection, homemade fresh pasta, and a beautifully illustrated interior. The pasta offerings change daily (starting from €6/£5.66), but the stracchino and arugula stuffed Romanian flatbread (€4/£3.77) is a menu mainstay and highly recommended. Head for a beer at Lenau-Stubun (€2.40/£2.26). This classic German kneipe is a favourite of neighbourhood locals and boasts a pinball table (€2/£1.89 for 5 games), darts, billiards, and plenty of classic German pub kitsch.

Mitte: A Window into Berlin’s History

As Berlin’s first borough and the city’s historic heart, lots can be uncovered by traversing Mitte’s timeworn streets. Built in 1866 the Neue Synagogue (Entrance €7/£6.60) is the largest in Germany and a beacon of resilience for the local Jewish community. Get to know the vital history of this building and its surrounding areas by taking an audio-guide (€3/£2.83). Mitte’s Berlin Wall Memorial is dedicated to those who perished trying to cross from East to West during the partitioned Cold War years. It’s free to visit and a real insight into the surreal nature of those years. You can decompress from the day with a snack at Cuore di Vetro, an authentic Italian gelateria close by equipped with a Carpigiani ice cream maker. They have occasional exhibitions and concerts in the back, so it’s lovely to grab a scoop of classic chocolate gelato (€1.20/£1.13) and settle in for much deserved afternoon break.

rooftops in Berlin

Wedding: Cheap Eats and Treasure-filled Markets

A walk through Wedding will give you an idea of old Berlin. With family run snack bars, a bustling multi-cultural population, and some apartments still heated by coal ovens this neighbourhood is brimming with original character. Start your day by rummaging through piles of treasure at the Leopoldplatz Flea Market. For thrifty souvenir shoppers there’s a €1 (94p) table chock full of beautiful oddities to sift through. Then head to Dan Thai a tiny take-away spot run by a local Thai grandmother. This one-woman operation can be a bit slow at times, but the wait is well worth it for the Lahb Ped (€8/£7.55) a spicy and delightfully herbal duck salad served on rice. End things with a Mezcal Mule (€8.50/£8.02) at Basalt, one of the area’s newer editions. With black walls and a striking green tiled bar, Basalt serves up botanical cocktails and an ambience that’s half Danish-design, half 1920s speakeasy.

Kreuzburg: Vintage Finds and All-night Antics

Over the past 10 years Kreuzberg has made its name as the classic neighbourhood associated with Berlin cool. Get acquainted by visiting the area’s namesake in Viktoria Park. Kreuzburg (cross-mountain) took its title from the 66-metre high hill that forms not only the park but also the borough’s highest peak. A trek to the top will take you past a small waterfall and towards one of the best views of the city. Next head to VΛ VINTAGE, the showroom of Greek collector Vaso Voulgari, which features some of the city’s best curated used clothes and deadstock. Get club ready with a mesh tank top and a pair of sports shorts (prices vary, from €5/£4.72). Then show off your new look at OHM (€8-€18/£7.55-£16.98), a tiny club in a former power plant that’s home to some of the city’s most fun and forward-thinking electronic music.

West Berlin (Charlottenburg/Wilmersdorf/Schöneberg): Glamour on a Budget

Before the wall fell the older neighbourhoods of West Berlin were frequented and beloved by cult creative tourists like David Bowie and Brian Eno. No place encapsulates the old school charms of the area better than traditional Austrian coffee house Cafe Einstein Stammhaus. Order the apple strudel with vanilla sauce (€7.50/£7.07) and take in the lush interior, you might remember it from scenes in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. Have your dinner after dessert at Hot Spot, one of the area’s many Szechuan restaurants. They boast an impressive selection of German wines which you’ll need to wash down the spice of hot and sour cucumber salad (€4.50/£4.24) and Mapo Tofu (€14.50/£13.68). If you’re hunting for a place to rest your head look no further than Hotel-Pension Funk (single rooms from €34/£32.07). This quirky hotel has been preserved in its original 1920s style - wallpaper and all! The former home of silent movie star Asta Nielsen, it’s the perfect place to end your glamorous day in West Berlin. The city proves that you can enjoy style and ambience in a European capital without breaking the bank.

Berlin street scene
currency conversion

Mojito

€8.10

(£7.64)

Flat White

€3

(£2.83)

Holiday let for two*

€113.19

(£106.75 per night)

Summery table for whats on, where and how much in Berlin

What:

Where:

How much:

What:

Must Do

Körnerpark is a beautiful neo-baroque-style classical garden

Where:

Schierker Str. 8, 12051 Berlin

How much:

Free

What:

Local Tipple

Beer at Lenau-Stuben:
A classic German Kneipe with pool and pinball tables

Where:

Hobrechtstraße 62, 12047 Berlin

How much:

Beer €2.40 (£2.26). 5 games of pinball for €2 (£1.89)

What:

Dinner

La Bolognina – cheap fresh pasta and organic wine

Where:

Donaustraße 107, 12043 Berlin

How much:

Daily changing pasta dishes from €5 (£4.72). Stracchino and arugula stuffed Romagnian €4 (£3.77)

What:

Transport

Walk as much as you can but if your feet are getting tired hop on the bus or train

Where:

Everywhere!

How much:

€2.80/£2.64 (single bus or train journey)

What:

Tipping

Where:

Restaurants

How much:

Typically 5-10% tip is appreciated in restaurants when no service charge is applied

Go Local Guides

Our insider city guides - packed with tips from locals in the know.

* Self-catering.

Disclaimer: Any views or recommendations in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of Halifax. All costs shown are approximate at publication. The exchange rates used were the applicable rates for travel money on 22 August 2019. Halifax is not responsible for the content of external sites.

Date: September 2019